The Bensalem Township school board approved a $78 million bond this week for a major high school renovation project, the final procedural hurdle before the project can be put out to bid.

School board president Ralph Douglass said work on the 2,000-student school will likely begin next summer and is expected to take about two years.

Upon completion, Douglass said, the facility will be divided into four distinct "academies," each occupying a separate area of the building.

One academy will include all ninth graders, he said, and in 10th grade students will choose to enter one of three topical academies for their remaining high school years: science, technology, engineering and mathematics; visual and performing arts; or business and international studies.

While each will have a different curricular focus, they will all offer core classes required for graduation, he said.

District officials have long argued that maintenance costs on the building - initially constructed 40 years ago - are inefficient and that a face-lift will save the district money in the long run.

Douglass said the school "needs to be seriously repaired and made efficient," and that even the most basic renovation would have required a bond issue of about $57 million.

The additional money, he said, will allow the school to enhance the building's ability to support the learning habits of 21st century students.

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